In this Chapter, Dr. Claire Weekes discusses the overactive nervous system. She explains that sensitization of the nervous system is a very common cause of anxiety. With chronic, prolonged stress (good or bad) comes an exaggerated stress response which manifests itself with physical symptoms such as palpitations, butterflies, trembling, sweating, difficulting taking a deep breath, headaches, lump in your throat, feeling pressure on top of your head (such as a weight), pressure around your head (such as a rubber band was around your head), dizziness, feeling off-balanced, and also panic attacks.
This sensitization often feels "sudden" and "out of the blue" but is typically a result of long term stress that has not been noticed and/or attended to properly through stress management tecniques. Because of this, people often feel caught "off guard" wondering what is happening to them - they become alarmed, hyper-focused on what they are feeling in their bodies and begin to add scary thoughts about what could be happening to them. These scary thoughts then add fear into the cycle which in turn only creates more unwanted, unpleasant physical symptoms.
A Common Life Scenario.
A common life scenario would be the busy parent who works a full time job, cooks, cleans and cares for all the children on a daily basis shuffling them around to school, appointments, homework and although well-ajusted in this routine suddenly has more stressful events come their way -- maybe a death of a loved one, an illness, or even something good, such as buying a house, or even winning the lottery. Life has become so busy, full of physical demands and emotional thought that the parent begins to feel tired, irritable, has been getting less sleep and/or has exerted too much physical activity without getting adequate rest to replenish the days "feel-good" brain chemicals. They are at work, suddenly feel dizzy, or short of breath and their heart starts to pound and they have a panic attack. They think, "What's wrong with me? Something must be terribly wrong. Why am I feeling this way?" The more upset they become over the way they feel the more symptoms progress and then, off to the Emergency Room they go, thinking the worst about their health only to be told it is anxiety and to be sent home with a mild sedative.
But that isn't enough...
The person suffering later goes home, analyzes their experience, what they felt, and become concerned it will happen again. Their thoughts of "what if" or "why" start to take over. They have become so upset by their own exaggerated stress response that they become hyper-aware of everything they are feeling which only aggrivates the situation and keeps it going. This perpetual habit of "fear-adrenaline-fear" is what Claire Weekes, M.D. calls "The Anxiety State". A cycle that started with unaddressed chronic stress simply followed a predictable pattern of exaggerated stress symptoms in the body and is later kept alive by their own thoughts, bewilderment and fears.
Must be something more...
People often are fooled into thinking that something worse must be happening to them. They interpret their physical sensations to mean that something more serious is wrong because it is hard to believe that stress and anxiety can feel "this bad". So they enter into a cycle of looking for other "more serious" causes of these anxiety symptoms when none actually exist. What has started as an exaggerated stress response has turned into nothing more than a bad habit of worry and "what if's". And the solution here isn't to keep hunting for a "deeper cause" but to stop the habit of fear. Anxiety has no deep seated cause except for severe sensitization of the nervous system that is later kept alive by the fear of your exaggerated symptoms. When we are not at peace and are experiencing fear, anger, excitement, agitation, etc. we FEEL the effects of these emotions in our physical bodies. The symptoms of a racing heart, sweating, overbreathing, racing thoughts just happen naturally. It is the automatic stress response that is built into the human body. It is doing exactly what it has been programmed to do. It is one thing to go into a haunted house or ride a roller coaster at an amusement park and feel all those SAME things and you do not question it, BUT when your body reacts with those same symptoms without having a well-known reason, you become fearful and panic. See, it is not so much what is happening to you but how you are interpretting it. Because we experience these symptoms without understanding why we end up looking for other answers when there isn't any except for being oversensitized in your nervous system. When stuck in a sensitized state long enough to become a habit, it becomes an illness that can only be healed through breaking the patterns of behavior and thought.
So, how do we control the symptoms and break the habit of fear?
Anxiety CONTINUALLY questions one's own self and others and often the answers (whether scientific or medical) that are given are not enough to stop the habit alone. BUT, we can control the symptoms and break the perpetual habit of fear of these anxiety symptoms through the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), mastering inner self-talk and sometimes medication might be needed as a tool to aid in this recovery. Sure sounds easy, but I assure you, it will take a great deal of effort and persistance on your part to break this horrible cycle and find your peace again. Don't EVER let anyone tell you that you have something you cannot recover from, learn to manage, and/or that you'll suffer with it for the rest of your life. This is far from reality and completely within your power to change.
What's your experience?
- Do you remember what chronic stressful events led you into this exaggerated stress response?
- Or did it feel like it all happened "out of the blue"?
- How often do you keep searching for deeper answers to your anxiety when none is there?
- Do you see your own habitual pattern of thinking that contributes to your own anxiety state?
- What do your own self-talk thoughts sound like? And can you see how these thoughts keep you anxious?
- What physical symptoms do you struggle with the most? And how do you deal with those symptoms?
Feel free to share your thoughts below on this Chapter and how this information applies to you and your own understanding of stress and anxiety. We want to hear from you! Use the form below to post at the bottom of this page. Commenting on other people's posts is also encouraged - let's exchange ideas, encouragement and support one another!
Chapter 1 - Sensitization - Let's Talk!
Share your thoughts & experience with the information shared in Chapter 1.